For the Love of the Game, the Team, and the Fans

I have been especially feelin' the love of soccer, RSL, and my fellow fans. This is my journey with RSL, and I have a thanks to the fans as well, so I put it here hoping it would reach some of you.

I am not an athlete. I played sports growing up- basketball, softball, and some family football games. I liked playing, even had some minimal b-ball skills, but I never loved it. I have certainly, much to the dismay of my sport fanatic and athletically skilled family, never liked watching sports. I danced, and I even practiced martial arts for a time. I took up photography as a short lived hobby. I could draw with more than the average talent, though I still never loved it. In some ways, I was, and probably still am, your quintessential nerd. The one consistency I have demonstrated throughout my life is having my nose stuck in a book. The closest I ever came to really loving something was reading a book, and then it still wasn’t something I held any passion for. I always figured I was just not a passionate person. My temperament was typically very even, having heard more than once that even when I was mad, I wasn’t really mad. There was nothing, no hobby, no activity, no anything that I didn’t want to live without. Everything fell into my overflowing box of take it or leave it. The lid would no longer close, having burst from its hinges many years ago.

I have done a lot of things in my life. That constant search for something I loved to do, the missing piece of the puzzle that was my identity. One thing I never did was play soccer. I absolutely did not watch it. Often hearing complaints about how boring soccer could be from some otherwise sports fanatics, I wasn’t going to bother with it. Never, not for one moment of my life, did I think soccer, Real Salt Lake, and its fans would take me on a journey of life altering experiences.

In May 2009, I took a new job (I have since moved on). This job put me in contact with the team and staff on a fairly consistent basis. I didn’t really care. Who were these guys, anyway? Later that year, I caught bits and pieces of the MLS Cup. I was excited for them. Still, it would be a while until I attended my first soccer game. Early in the 2011 season I decided to see what it was all about. At times, I bent over backwards trying to help the club out. It was my job to do so, but I wanted to know why they were so important. My boss had season tickets and was going out of town on a game day. Ask and ye shall receive-I now had two free tickets to a game. I think it took 15 minutes. I wasn’t saying "Oh, this is fun". I was yelling "THIS IS AWESOME!" The game flowed, it was great. And I didn’t know a ball could be pretty if one was not referring to an aesthetic decoration. The fans, wow. The atmosphere was just something else, and I wanted to be a part of it. Then there was the team, there was just something there. Didn’t know what, but it was something. It was love at first sight. I have not missed one RSL match since that day. After that I started dedicating what time I could spare to learning the game. Articles by Denz, Matt, and a few others being a little piece of my lengthy learning process, so thanks guys and RSLSoapbox.

Suddenly, I was yelling at the referee. I was throwing something at my TV trying to hit the other team (not successfully, to my frustration). I started watching other teams play. Hopefully, to watch them lose if it’s San Jose or LA. I found myself feeling sucker punched after some games. Other games, I found I would have the best week ever after a win. I would rue the times we gave up. I would cherish the times we didn’t. And times, like this past Wednesday, I found myself oh so very proud of every fan and every player on the pitch, on a draw at home. Win or lose, these are my guys. I ride the rollercoaster, wishing I could have an all-day pass. They are the little string of thread to which my sanity often clings. If home is where your heart is, the RioT is one of my homes. Every loss, every win, every missed opportunity, every opportunity gained, every fight to the finish, and every "we give up" is just…felt.

It is the fans, too. The fans are awesome. Game in, game out, I love being with you. Sometimes being at the stadium and to experience so much can just make a difference. We’re not always perfect. Some days we are louder and more in sync than others. No, we are not Seattle or Portland. But we are us, and we are fans of Real Salt Lake. I wouldn’t want us to be any other group. Every experience with you is, well, an experience.

If past me could ever see present me, she would say "Who are you and what have you done with me?" My life is different. I discovered RSL one day, and I found me. Forever the odd man out, I no longer feel like I am. I found my thing. I know when I really like something and when I don’t. Not everything is piled into the lone box of take it or leave it. I found I could take this thing, this passion, I once thought I never had, and distribute it over many aspects of my life. I woke up. I watched a group of guys play soccer. Again, there is just something, even when the players have changed, whether it’s something so human that it hits home and can be identified with, a fighting spirit, or a group of guys that just do it differently. I could spend all day coming up with lists of what is so great about RSL, but it all comes down to this:

There is something special about this team. I still don’t know exactly what. That first day, I was not enthralled as much with soccer, as I was with the team playing it. I became a fan of soccer because I fell in love with RSL. And how a trick loses its magic once you know what’s behind it, I am happy never fully understanding what makes this team so special. It’ll stay my piece of magic that way. Kreis said after a match "I feel that people recognize that it’s not just a crest on a shirt or a name on a stadium, it’s part of us." Exactly. My life may not revolve around soccer, but it’s not just a game, it’s not just a team, and it’s not just fans, it’s all a part of me. #RSLTID

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